ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday extended the pre-arrest bail of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in the fake accounts case till April 29.
The IHC bench comprised Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kiyani.
During the hearing, Justice Farooq inquired about the number of cases registered against Zardari.
“There are two investigations and three inquiries open against the PPP co-chairman,” replied a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) representative. He added that he could only reveal details of cases in which Zardari had been summoned already. The court has given NAB until April 19 to submit reply regarding a number of cases against the former president.
Earlier on Monday, an unusual development took place during the hearing of the fake accounts case when two women requested the accountability court to be allowed to become approvers against the Zardari and Faryal Talpur.
As the proceedings began on Monday, two women named Kiran Aman and Noreen Sultan, who are among the 30 women nominated in the case, told the court that they are ready to testify as witnesses and had filed an application in this regard with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman, but the bureau had named them as accused instead. The lawyers representing the other accused objected to this.
Accountability Judge Mohammad Bashir sought a reply from NAB Prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi on the plea. Abbasi said that he was not sure about the application to NAB chief by the accused. The court then directed them to submit separate applications with the court.
Earlier in the day, the accountability court rejected the exemption plea of the PPP co-chairman and his sister in the money laundering case. The court ordered the duo and all 16 suspects nominated in the case to appear on April 16 and adjourned the hearing till then.
Zardari, Talpur and others accused nominated in the case appeared before the court amid tight security, with at least 1,650 security officials deployed within and around the judicial complex to avoid any untoward situation during the hearing. The case was earlier being heard in a banking court in Karachi but had been shifted to an accountability court in Islamabad upon an appeal by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
In December 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) began a discreet investigation into certain bank accounts through which multi-billion rupee transactions had been made. According to FIA sources, information regarding the fake accounts came to the fore when an intelligence agency picked up a prominent money changer in an unrelated case.
As the monitoring and investigation of these suspicious accounts continued, it surfaced that five of these accounts in two banks – the Sindh Bank and Summit Bank – had been used for transactions worth around Rs15 billion.
Investigation showed the accounts were operated by fake companies. Funds were credited into these accounts from contractors with multi-billion rupee contracts with the Sindh government. The money was found to have been transferred to accounts of companies owned and operated by the Omni Group, whose chairperson, Anwar Majeed, is a close aide of Zardari. Another beneficiary was Nasir Lootah, the chairperson of Summit Bank.
The probe, however, was shelved. It resumed almost a year and a half later. FIA’s State Bank circle initiated a formal inquiry in January 2018.
By June 2018, FIA had several high-profile names on its list but was unable to make headway – for several reasons. It was at his point that the Supreme Court (SC) intervened. The then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar took suo motu notice of the ‘slow progress’ in the money laundering case.
In July the same year, Zardari’s close aides; Hussain Lawai, Taha Raza and two others were arrested. Subsequently, the first case was registered in the mega-corruption scandal. The FIA submitted its report to the apex court on July 8 which revealed a web of companies and accounts that were being used to transfer billions of rupees. In all, 29 accounts were identified that received payments, totalling at least Rs35 billion.
In August 2018, Omni Group chief Anwar Majeed was arrested along with son Abdul Ghani Majeed when they returned to the country on being summoned by the apex court. They are now on judicial remand.